DG Civil Aviation will decide on revision of air fare'
Union Minister for Civil Aviation and Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi on Sunday laid out the road map for the civil aviation sector by making it clear that his first priority was the revival of Air India (AI) as the flagship.
“Our policy is not to discourage the private sector, but to see that Air India plays the role of flagship in the industry. In the transport sector, Air India is the ‘fate of India' and all efforts will be made to restore its past glory,” he said at a press meet organised by the Thiruvananthapuram Press Club here. He said he was not oblivious to the enormous task of reviving the national carrier. “It will take time. Discussions will be held with all stakeholders, including employees, the Airports Authority of India and private airlines. The priority would be to tackle problems related to air travel,” he said.
AI had to tackle issues related to air fare, dearth of aircraft, and competition from private airliners. The airline's finances were not stable, though new services such as Air India Express had benefited air travellers, especially from the Gulf. Official-level discussions concluded, he proposed to confer with the union on reviving the national carrier.
He said higher air fare, particularly during the peak holiday season, went against the interests of passengers — particularly of Indian expatriates travelling in the Gulf sector — but this was the business practice adopted by the industry. His immediate concern was to ensure that AI services were revived soon. With the demand for fare revision, in the light of the hike in aviation fuel, Mr. Ravi said he would rather leave it the Director-General of Civil Aviation to decide on this. A decision on the purchase of aircraft for AI had already been taken and now the issue was about timely delivery.
Mr. Ravi also did not make any commitment on the levy of user fee in airports. Having himself pointed out earlier that the user fee in the Thiruvananthapuram airport was on the higher side, he was now not averse to examining this aspect. Regarding the inauguration of the new terminal of the Thiruvananthapuram airport, Mr. Ravi hinted that it was delayed because of the State government's attitude.
Enrolling NRI voters
The Minister said the Union Law Ministry had submitted an alternative proposal which would enable the enrolment of NRIs in voters' lists. The proposal was to mail the voter's photograph along with passport details to the Election Commission, facilitating the publication of the voters list on the basis of polling booths.
Three rounds of discussions — attended by the Election Commission, Legal Secretaries, the Ministries of Overseas Indian Affairs and External Affairs — were held to work out the modalities of implementing the new guidelines for the enrolment of NRI voters.
The proposal to get the embassies to take up the work was dropped mainly because the long queues before them would turn out to be a political issue with the host country, he said.
Asked about the reported involvement of two private airlines in wildlife smuggling, Mr. Ravi said he had not received any intimation from the Union Minister for Environment & Forests and did not want to respond to news reports.